Can You Sue a Private School for Negligence?

One of a private school’s most important duties is to ensure its students’ safety by providing a secure learning environment. Schools are responsible for protecting their students from any potential dangers they may face while enrolled there. If you are a parent of a child who has been injured on private school grounds, you may be able to sue the school for negligence, which is an act of carelessness that causes harm to someone else. 

To succeed in a lawsuit, you will need to prove that the private school was negligent and that its negligence caused or contributed to your child’s injury. If you can show that the school failed to exercise due care in maintaining its property or supervising your child or other students, then they may be liable for any injuries suffered. For example, if your child trips and falls on a broken step, you may be able to claim that the school failed in its duty to keep the school grounds safe. And if your child is hit, punched, or otherwise injured by another child at recess, you can argue that the school was negligent in its duty to supervise students during recess time. 

What are the four types of negligence?

“Negligence” is a broad term that encompasses many different types of behavior. As a result, there are far more than four “types” of negligence. However, there are four elements that every negligence claim must satisfy in order to succeed. 

The person claiming negligence will need to show that the defendant owed them a legal duty, that the defendant breached this duty, that the breach was a proximate or legal cause of some injury, and that damage was caused by the breach. Each of these elements is described in detail below.

Duty of Care

The first element necessary to prove negligence is that the school owed your child a legal duty of care. In the case of private schools, the applicable legal duty of care requires schools to take all reasonable actions to protect students from foreseeable harm by providing a safe learning environment. Additionally, when a child is at school, school administrators and teachers have the same responsibilities and legal duties that the student’s parents have at home.

Breach of Duty

The next element of a negligence claim is that the school breached a legal duty owed to your child. A breach of duty is any act or omission that falls short of the legal duty required. This means that when a school fails to protect a student from foreseeable harm, it has breached its duty.


The third element of negligence is known as “causation.” This means that the school’s breach of duty must have been a “but-for” cause of the student’s injury. In other words, you must prove that the student would not have been injured if the school did not breach its duty. The breach does not have to be the only cause of the injury, but it must have, at the very least, been an essential contributing factor.


The final element of a negligence claim is damages. Because the remedy for negligence claims is typically monetary compensation, you must show that you suffered a compensable injury, economic or otherwise, to succeed in your claim. Common types of damages in private school negligence cases include reimbursement for medical bills, a parent’s lost wages when caring for the child, emotional distress, and others.

What kind of attorney do I need to sue a school?

If your child has been injured by the negligence of an employee of the school, then the school may be liable to pay money damages in order to compensate you and your family for what happened. However, you should understand that private school negligence claims are usually very different from typical negligence cases like car accidents. For this reason, a lawyer who does not focus their practice or specialize in these types of personal injury cases against private schools may not be the best choice, as they typically will not be well-versed in the nuances of education law. Instead, you should consider hiring an education attorney who is familiar with personal injury law if you want to sue a school.

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About & RMO Lawyers

RMO LLP serves clients in San Diego, Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Orange County, and communities throughout California. Our founder, Scott E. Rahn has been named “Top 100 – Trust and Estate Litigation” by SuperLawyers, Trusts and Estates Litigator of the Year, and Best Lawyers in America for Litigation – Trusts and Estates.